How IT Can Safely and Profitably Befriend Web 2.0 at Work

There's much excitement around Web 2.0, but many IT professionals are still confused about what exactly constitutes Web 2.0. Many are also shockingly unprepared for the security risks that come with Web 2.0 use in the workplace. When they hear the term "Web 2.0," many IT professionals automatically think of personal social networking sites and they restrict employee access in an attempt to manage productivity. But, as Knowledge Center contributor Jim Haskin explains, Web 2.0 is much more than just social networking, and Web 2.0 applications are delivering measurable business benefits.


By now you might be tired of hearing all the hype around Web 2.0. Everybody from Oprah to Time magazine is talking about the growth of Twitter and Facebook, but there is much more to Web 2.0 than social networking. Businesses using Web 2.0 sites and applications are seeing tangible benefits, from increased revenue to improved collaboration and streamlined processes. However, even among IT professionals, much confusion still exists around what exactly constitutes Web 2.0, whether businesses should enable employee access to Web 2.0 and, if so, how to do it safely.

IT managers are also confused about Web 2.0. A recent global survey of 1,300 IT managers found that only 17 percent were able to correctly identify Web 2.0 sites and tools from a list. Only roughly half realized that wikis, mashups such as, and video uploading sites such as are all examples of Web 2.0. The term "Web 2.0" can be used to describe any Web site that hosts user-generated content. This can be anything from cloud computing and hosted software provider sites to popular news sites such as and mashups such as

Because anybody can contribute content, Web 2.0 sites pose an increased risk to visitors. Almost half of the top 100 destinations on the Internet host user-generated content, and 70 percent of the top 100 have hosted either malicious code or masked redirects to infected sites. The global survey mentioned previously also revealed a dangerous security gap when it comes to Web 2.0 at work: 80 percent of IT managers said they feel confident in their organization's Web security, 62 percent currently allow access to some Web 2.0 sites-yet only nine percent have the necessary security solutions to protect from all threat vectors associated with Web 2.0.

Are there real benefits to Web 2.0 at work?

The excitement around Web 2.0 is not all hype. Web 2.0 allows companies to improve collaboration and information exchange, streamline communication and processes, gather detailed customer and market research, interact with key stakeholders, and drive revenue. There are many examples of organizations that have used Web 2.0 to their advantage in very compelling ways, for various objectives including the following:

1. Market research: The consumer products company Kimberly-Clark Corp. created an online community for users of its Scott brand personal care products. The company analyzes data and customer profile information to identify its most loyal customers, and to market products to specific segments.

2. Collections: Employees in the collections department at Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union in California regularly search social networking sites, as well as picture and video uploading sites, to find evidence (such as photos) of the items they're trying to collect. These could include a car of which the credit union is the lienholder. The organization also uses a blog to help it communicate with, attract and retain younger members.

3. Revenue generation: Dell says Twitter has produced $2 million in revenue through sale alerts.

4. Government agencies are also getting in the game. The Obama administration made government adoption of Web 2.0 a priority, holding an Open Government Brainstorm to discuss how agencies can incorporate more Web 2.0 in their everyday workings. The White House uses a blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the Federal Web Managers Council says the federal government should require government agencies to allow Web 2.0 access.

Even before arriving in the White House, the Obama campaign used Web 2.0 in the form of an online community called that let users create blogs to rally support during the presidential campaign. It was instrumental in the coordination of nearly 4,000 house parties and raised more than two million individual donations of less than $200 each.